When the coronavirus pandemic started, scientists also started exploring the treatment options that were utilized in other pandemic conditions. One of the most relatable illnesses, which resulted in the last major pandemic, is the Spanish Flu. Although both Spanish Flu and coronavirus are different, the primary source of action of these viruses is a pulmonary infection, followed by respiratory failure or hypoxia.
The hyperbaric sleep chambers were utilized even during the Spanish Flu pandemic. The first patient received HBOT for 1-hour at 1.68 ATA and 100% oxygen. A similar type of treatment was continued for the next 3 days, which saved the life of the patient.
The coronavirus pandemic is similar in the manner in which it affects the lungs. The pathology of both viruses is different. However, the capability of hyperbaric sleep chambers to penetrated inflamed tissues for oxygen delivery helps in improving the condition of patients.
Check how hyperbaric sleep chambers are being used for COVID-19 across the world.
Hyperbaric Sleep Chamber in COVID-19 Pulmonary Infection
In a certain publication, an analysis was conducted on the CT scans collected from 121 COVID-19 positive patients. These patients were spread across 4 Chinese provinces. In the CT scans of all these patients, progressive lung disease was spotted, where there was a dispersion oxygen barrier. This barrier, according to the research’s scientists, is similar to the Spanish Flu.
Scientists found out hyperbaric sleep chamber treatment was effective in the Spanish Flu back in 1918 as well. Back then, critically ill patients managed to reverse the adverse impacts of the flu with HBOT therapy. He regained his health.
However, even with the proven benefits, hyperbaric sleep chambers are risky for COVID-19 as well as non-COVID-19 patients. The coronavirus is a highly contagious virus that can spread easily to the neighboring individuals through air. Hence, when a patient is treated in a hyperbaric sleep chamber, fully trained staff and extreme control measures are required. This is the reason why HBOT therapy is not being widely used to treat coronavirus disease.
Revelations in Case Studies
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an oxygen treatment approved by the FDA for certain conditions, including necrotizing fasciitis, decompression sickness, wound healing, etc. During this treatment, the patient receives 100% oxygen in a pressurized chamber. This helps the oxygen molecules to dissolve in body fluids such as lipids and plasma, which improves oxygen concentration in the body.
Ideally, hyperbaric sleep chambers can relieve COVID-19 symptoms such as pulmonary inflammation and hypoxemia. While the exact course of action is unclear, the extra oxygen in the body directly addresses hypoxia. This is because, HBOT therapy can improve viricidal free radical production, regulate hypoxic inducible factor, and decrease cytokines (that cause cytokine storm).
In a particular case study, a 48-year-old woman, who was experiencing breathlessness with very low respiratory rate, was treated. Considering her very low oxygen saturation levels even after receiving humidified oxygen, scientists moved to HBOT therapy. The patient was already suffering from obesity, hypertension, and sleep apnea. When she was finally cleared for the hyperbaric sleep chamber, she was already in a situation to be moved to intubation.
However, with HBOT therapy at 2.0 ATA for 90 minutes, there were instant improvements in her breathing patterns. The oxygen saturation of the patient stabilized and the need for ventilation was successfully eliminated. With just 5 days of regular HBOT therapy, the patient recovered and her situation improved.
After this treatment, four more patients registered for hyperbaric sleep chambers due to their deteriorating situation (caused by COVID-19). In all of the above 5 patients, the need for mechanical ventilation was successfully eliminated. Every patient received a quick resolution for their tachypnea and they had better oxygen saturation at the end of the study.
Here are the results:
- Relief in hypoxemia symptoms. Only the first session helped multiple patients to receive some relief, such as chest pain reduction, better breathing, etc. The second session normalized the respiratory rate.
- In every study for HBOT as a viable treatment for COVID-19, hypoxemia was directly treated. Before the treatment, patients had low oxygen saturation. However, after HBOT therapy, oxygen saturation improved and hypoxia reversed.
The benefits of the hyperbaric sleep chamber have helped scientists to consider HBOT therapy for coronavirus disease. Since every patient had a minimum to zero side-effects, HBOT therapy can provide extremely beneficial if studied on a large scale.
When a pandemic starts spreading, it impacts the entire world. Similarly, the COVID-19 virus, which originated in Wuhan, is now spreading rapidly to every corner of the world. More than 16 million people have been infected by the virus in the world. Multiple patients have also suffered death due to the severe or critical symptoms of the coronavirus.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of the virus in different people are different. Many suffer from cough and cold, others go through life-threatening pulmonary diseases and cardiac arrest. In severe or critical cases, one thing is common: ventilator support. However, once the patient is moved to the ventilator, recovery slows down. This is why, now, scientists are using hyperbaric sleep chambers to avoid intubation.
As a result, a COVID-19 patient is being considered for HBOT only when they have reached a stage where intubation may be necessary for the next few hours. Receiving treatment at this stage helps in mitigating risks and improving patient’s conditions.
It is not recommended to start HBOT treatment for coronavirus at home. Consult a medical expert for correct guidance and support.